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Stipends at UND? More questions than answers

In an era of uncertainty in the NCAA, one thing is a lock at North Dakota: UND will pursue covering the full cost of attendance for its men's hockey team.

In an era of uncertainty in the NCAA, one thing is a lock at North Dakota: UND will pursue covering the full cost of attendance for its men’s hockey team.

What else will UND offer? How will it be executed?

Right now, there are more questions than answers.

UND athletic director Brian Faison attended an NCAA convention last weekend in Washington, D.C., where the NCAA’s five major conferences voted 79-1 to allow the Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, SEC and Big 12 to pay athletes funds in addition to scholarships to cover their general expenses. Estimates have placed that stipend at between $2,000 and $6,000 per year.

The rest of the NCAA membership is left pondering which institutions and which programs will opt in to follow suit.

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“It’s going to be an interesting period to wade through this,” Faison said.

Faison said UND’s full cost of attendance is calculated annually by the university, a number he expects to receive later this spring. However, he said $3,500 is a ballpark figure.

UND is preparing to cover that additional cost in men’s hockey, which is fully funded at 18 scholarships. Those 18 scholarships can be spread across a full roster of more than 20 players.

“We have that commitment to compete at that level with an elite program,” Faison said. “We have to maintain that elite status. Dave (Hakstol) and his staff need to have that in pocket; they absolutely do. That’s a commitment, without question.”

Providing these additional funds to men’s hockey, however, presents challenges with Title IX -- a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.

In other words, any additional stipends to men’s hockey will need to be matched in women’s athletics.

“Balance on the gender-equity side is part of the conversation, as well as what happens in the Big Sky and football is something we have to keep an eye on,” Faison said.

As it stands now, Faison said the Big Sky Conference, the Western Athletic Conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference -- leagues in which UND programs compete -- won’t dictate whether their league members will be forced to provide this cost. It’s up to each institution to determine whether they opt in to cover the full cost of attendance.

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Members around FCS football are keeping a close eye on this movement.

North Dakota State athletic director Matt Larsen told the Fargo Forum newspaper last week that NDSU is looking into providing the additional cost of attendance for its football players -- a large undertaking considering the sheer number of scholarships in the sport, as well as the Title IX match that accompanies it.

Missouri Valley Football Commissioner Patty Viverito told the Fargo Forum, “I think it’s a general sentiment that the FCS can’t afford it. I think some of our schools have been pretty up front they think the FCS offers an opportunity to remain fiscally responsible and there’s not much self-interest in escalating costs.”

But if NDSU, or any other institution in FCS, were to travel that path, other athletic departments would feel the pressure to keep up.

“We’re going to do what’s best for North Dakota,” Faison said. “Our interests might not be the same as North Dakota State or South Dakota State or South Dakota, but they may be. Until we get some answers, we still have to wait.”

The NCAA membership, outside of the major five conference universities, submitted questions to the NCAA regarding the full cost of attendance.

“There are lots of good questions that still need to be answered out there,” Faison said. “We know we’re going to have to do something, but what that is and how it plays out … there’s too many wheels turning that aren’t locking in. Once they lock in, we’ll have to make decisions as soon as we can.”

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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